Summary: The Capital Area Food Bank’s Community Incentives Project was built around the marriage of small farmers and a farmers market located in a low-income, urban area to enhance the quality of life of each partner. The market project was designed as a powerful model demonstrating the value of providing incentive payments to farmers and of establishing a producers-only farmers market in a low-income urban area unaccustomed to access to fresh produce and other farm products. The incentives provided encouraged farmers to participate in providing nutritious foods in low-income areas.
The Capital Area Food Bank’s Community Incentives Project focuses on the Anacostia neighborhood of Southeast Washington, DC, in Wards 7 and 8, where the disproportionate reliance of most residents on the few retail food outlets that are located within a reasonable travel distance illustrates the need for access to fresh produce and other fresh foods. A study by the Capital Area Food Bank, completed in 2001 (From Farm to Table: Making the Connection in the Mid-Atlantic Food System , Hora and Tick ), confirmed the need for the nonprofit community to participate in food and farming programs, since the inequities of food distribution in the District are clear. In the Ward 3 section of Washington, where the median income among 69,000 residents is $63,340, there are 208 sit-down restaurants, 25 take-out restaurants, 22 retail grocery stores that sell fresh produce and 5 retail groceries that don’t sell fresh produce. By comparison, in Ward 7, where 63,000 residents live on a median income of $17,743, there are 13 sit-down restaurants, 35 take-out restaurants, 6 retail grocery stores that sell fresh produce and 18 retail grocery stores that stock no fresh produce. An Open Air Market is a rarity. The predominantly African-American neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River must rely on convenience stores, offering foods which encourage health conditions that exacerbate the effects of low-income, such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
Our primary target audiences consist of the people who deal with these realities every day. Included are potential customers for a stable, reliably located farmers market, small farmers who participate in marketing to low-income areas, and small-business entrepreneurs from the neighborhood who could complete the circle of community involvement in the market by making the products of their talents available for sale. Many have been customers of the Anacostia Farmers Market (AFM), operated for 4 seasons by the Capital Area Food Bank and its partner, the Allen Chapel AME Church, the Clagett Farm in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, and small entrepreneurs, who bring variety and humor to the AFM.
On behalf of the farmers participating in the market, and the agricultural community of the Washington, D.C. region, the Capital Area Food Bank conducted marketing research over the winter of 2002 in order to determine the most effective crops, cultural messages and overall marketing strategies that would make marketing regional foods to an African-American audience more profitable to area farmers. Because the American population is becoming more ethnically diverse, this reality presents a challenge to the vital issues of community choices, food security, and a sustainable agricultural base. For meaningful, market-based change to occur, a thorough understanding of how food and diet relates to cultural traditions, habits, and trends is essential.
We completed this study with a small grant from the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension and the result, Advertising Campaigns That Work: Determining Effective Promotional Strategies for Farmers Markets (Hora), with an emphasis on seniors and their nutritional needs and ethnic preferences, has positioned us to accelerate our campaign to expand access to fresh foods in the Anacostia neighborhoods of Southeast Washington in an informed and prepared manner.
Performance Targets: The Farmer Target was designed to provide incentives and originally was slated to guarantee at least $500 in income a week for each farmer participating, reimbursed through the grant. During the 2002 season, income guarantees were increased to $750 to insure farmer participation. In 2003, farmers agreed to a reduction of the reimbursement to a $300 guarantee. As you can see from the farmer reimbursement charts, four farmers participated regularly throughout the season and, with promotions, our reimbursement request this year will be $17,251.66, considerably less than last year and leaving a remainder of $12,269.44 in the grant for expenditures during the 2004, and last, year of our SARE grant partnership. In addition, we spent non-SARE grant and general operating funds on print and radio ads, special event support, some mailings, and local travel for some produce pick-up and delivery. The Low-Income Consumer Target: To improve sales and attendance at the Anacostia Farmers Market and to implement a Food Stamp/EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) sales tool at the market for customer ease and to boost market sales. Use of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) technology sales at the Farmers Market continues to be a challenge, as has WIC coordination. Farmer sales were up this year, though attendance varied widely from week to week. However, a number of regulars were loyal to the new location at the Allen Chapel AME Church. Smoothies, face-painting, music, BBQ, pumpkin decorating and cooking demonstrations, all advertised in weekly e-mail updates to District agencies and community partners, plus radio ads and flyers all contributed to a successful year.
Milestones and Adjustments to Plan of Work: Sales for the Anacostia Farmers Market improved during the 2003, especially for two out of the four participating farmers. As in any “business,” location and product choice matters. Some farmers brought more appealing choices, geared to the low-income, urban customer base. The Allen Chapel AME Church location, across the street from the church in a fenced, partially paved lot, proved to be a spot not conducive to foot traffic and had to be a destination in the car. Due to traffic patterns, it would be next to impossible to see the market and make a decision to stop all at once, even with the large and durable banner we had placed directly in front of the market on the fence and at the nearest intersection. Because these challenges remain from year to year, although showing improvement this season, we decided to go after a planning grant offered by Greater DC Cares’ COMPASS Project.
We won five to six months worth of the services of five MBAs with long experience in the business world to help us plan for the future of the Anacostia Market, both for the near term, our last SARE grant year, and for the long term. Because the goals we are setting out directly relate to the successful establishment of the community initiatives project, I will go into some detail here about them. When the SARE Project Grant Year Report is mailed in hard copy, I plan to attach our Objectives, which we have agreed upon in two lengthy initial meetings with our grant-provided consultants. Our goals are these: A Business Plan for the Anacostia Farmers Market. A professionally developed plan from an outside perspective would be invaluable to us in determining how and where the Market could best locate, organize, and grow. We felt it was time for a new perspective to guide us toward the long-term goal of building the AFM toward self-sustainability.
Site-Assessment: An improved location could increase visibility of and accessibility to the market, and therefore improve our reach within the community.
Community Interest Survey: Design of a survey to assess the wants and desires of the people within the community would give us new perspectives when making decisions on what to offer at the Market. This outside input could be used to measure effectiveness of the project and predict our potential for success.
Marketing Plan: A strategic assessment of media outlets and communication vehicles appropriate for addressing the local audience would help us to cost-effectively spread the word about the Market; recommendations about how to shape our marketing message could help eliminate existing confusion between the Food Bank and the Farmers Market connection.
We also won a grant of $15,000 from Kaiser Permanente to add to the nutrition education aspect of what’s available at the market. This project will offer AFM customers the chance to participate in more cooking demonstrations at the market itself, and to sign up for the CAFB’s Operation Frontline program, a volunteer chef program consisting of a six-week course of food selection, preparation, handling, and budgeting. Offered in partnership with our network of agencies, many of which are located east of the Anacostia River, this “value-added” benefit to the AFM will increase the resources available through the Market and deepen the relationship the Market has with the community.
Personnel changes at the Capital Area Food Bank included the departure of Health and Food Systems Director, Matthew Hora, which was reported on in our last SARE Project Report. Subsequently, Julie Adkisson joined the CAFB as Market Coordinator and has brought marketing experience and a lot of energy to the project.
A recent Washington Post story highlighted the fact that many local Washington area foundations granted funds to projects on a national basis, sending much-needed dollars away from their own underserved communities. With the Capital Area Food Bank’s community penetration in some of the very neighborhoods mentioned in the article, we feel confident that foundation dollars sought to form partnerships benefiting the Anacostia Farmers Market will increase our budget in 2004 and 2005, allowing us to continue our plans toward eventual independence for the AFM, after the SARE grant expires.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Outcomes: During the upcoming 2003 winter season, we will address the issues of attendance and consumer appeal highlighted earlier in this report through our COMPASS partnership and through publications, such as the AFM Newsletter, post card mailings, recipe cards and nutrition information and the tailoring of certain farm products to appeal to ethnic food preferences.
Market strategies based on the Food Bank’s study done over the winter of 2002 into food and shopping preferences in our target population was successful in that it has allowed us to work more closely with our Clagett Farm partner, and our other farmers, suggesting planting choices for eventual market appeal. Market managers, farmers and direct marketing advocates should understand the shopping behaviors, motivations and difficulties experienced by some of their African-American customers in general, and African-American senior citizens in particular. The senior citizens interviewed in our study indicated that food shopping locations are chosen for three reasons: 1) weekly sales advertisements for supermarket chains in the Washington Post are directly responsible for the types of food purchased and the stores frequented; 2) variety and selection of various foods is a significant factor in determining where seniors shop for food; and 3) significant concerns for personal health due to disease and aging lead to more health-conscious shopping habits and awareness of nutritional messages. It is important to note that findings indicate that while seniors represent a unique niche within any population, the shopping habits and behaviors of African-American senior citizens provided valuable insights into the cultural characteristics of the general African-American population that can be used in a marketing campaign.
In addition, despite the marginal role farmers markets play in the regular diet of most of the respondents, the interview and survey data indicate that senior citizens are especially aware and critical of three characteristics of food products, including freshness, adequate selection and seasonality. These three factors should be integrated into advertising campaigns for urban farmers markets with high populations of African-American senior citizens. Additional features of farmers markets in African-American communities should be cognizant of the unique cultural characteristics of their customer base and barriers to food shopping that residents regularly face. Cultural characteristics include strong preferences for regular supplies of abundant and competitively priced greens (kale, collards, turnip and mustard), clean food vending areas, nostalgic identification for home-grown foods, friendly customer service and a wide selection of local and non-local fruits. This year, the mix of customer included more mothers with young children and to get a quick snapshot of our customers and why they came to us, we distributed a customer survey toward the end of the season, encouraging people to fill out the survey through bonus certificates for market food choices.
Based upon this research, we tackled 2003 with the ideal of affordable prices with weekly sales or specials; clean and well displayed vendor stands; friendly and helpful customer service; and accessible and convenient with adequate parking. As stated earlier in the proposal, some of these goals were more successfully realized than others. Ms. Adkisson came on board in April, necessitating attention to the details of preparing the market to open and running it from weekend to weekend. The Farmers Market News and the Anacostia Farmers Market Coloring Book resumptions and publication were two goals which did not see fruition, but have now been offered to the scrutiny of our COMPASS partners and a combination information, communication, and bonus vehicle project is under consideration.
It is our hope that the information contained in this report and the information in the attachments will provide a compete picture of our Anacostia Farmers Market year and plans for the 2004 season.
Slides/Photos/Attachments: Attachments included in hard copy mailing include copy of Anacostia Farmers Market 2003 Customer Survey, 2003 AFM Financial Recap, Anacostia Farmers Market Weekly Farmer Buy-Backs, Objectives for the Anacostia Farmers Market for 2004, created in consultation with COMPASS Grant MBAs, Fact Sheets on Market and Farm which include photos.
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